Second councillor quits Tory ranks

A CLAIM that Rother District Council is turning into a dictatorship run by its majority Conservative group has emerged in the decision by a second Tory member to resign from the party and become an independent.

Less than a week after Bexhill Sackville councillor Deirdre Williams quit the Conservatives, Cllr Paul Lendon, who represents the town’s St Stephen’s Ward along with Conservative councillor Bridget George, has now also jumped ship.

He did not mince his words when informing the ruling Conservative group’s leader, Cllr Carl Maynard, of his decision to quit, suggesting that he felt the council was now more of a dictatorship than a democracy.

Unlike Cllr Williams, who has joined the Association of Independents led by Cllr Stuart Earl, Cllr Lendon has opted to follow St Michael’s ward independent, Cllr Charlie Clark, by representing his ward in his own right.

In a letter sent to Cllr Maynard on Monday and seen by the Observer, Cllr Lendon said: “In view of my recent unfortunate experience at the conclusion of the overview and scrutiny committee, I feel that I have no option but to resign as a Conservative councillor.

“To have been accused of voting for an opposition party member, in what was supposed to have been a secret vote, is suggestive of a form of dictatorship which I am not prepared to tolerate.

“You are already aware that I have been concerned for some time at the dictatorial trend which has developed within the council, inhibiting the oportunity to represent the best interests of one’s constituents, and whilst not wishing to engage in a number of recriminations, I feel I have no alternative than to no longer accept the Conservative council whip.”

Cllr Lendon added: “Whilst I accept that a council sometimes has to take decisions alien to what may be regarded as uninformed opinion, I believe that one should listen to one’s constituents and, where necessary, endeavour to represent the common viewpoint.”

He concluded: “It is my intention to remain a councillor and. as always, to represent the constituents of my ward as well as the interests of all Bexhillians and the constituents of Rother council.”

Despite both being elected on a Tory ticket, neither Cllr Williams nor Cllr Lendon have proposed putting their decisions to the test by resigning their seats and seeking a mandate from voters through a by-election.

Cllr Lendon, who has been a councillor for more than six years and was mayor of Bexhill in 2007, said; “ I don’t see any point at the moment as it is a costly process.

“I got in by representing my constituents’ views and I will still be doing that for them. Listening to them is more important to me than toeing any party line.”

He added: “You might also say that people who voted Conservative nationally didn’t vote for a Coalition, but that is what is now representing them.”

On Wednesday, Cllr Maynard told the Observer: “I’m sure that both Paul and Deirdre have now found their true spiritual homes politically. Both have always been very independent by nature and I wish them well.”

Responding to Cllr Lendon’s allusions to dictatorial methods, Cllr Maynard said: “Paul had issues with the fact that he didn’t want to be part of the strategic view of the district as a whole and very much had his interests in Bexhill. There’s nothing more I wish to say.”

The political composition of the 38-seat council is now as follows: Conservatives 25; Liberal Democrats 5; Labour 2; Association of Independents 4; Independent Member for St Michael’s 1; Independent Member for St Stephen’s Ward 1.